AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 22

SAFETY SPOTLIGHT

Fly-bys

BY RICHARD MCSPADDEN
Senior Vice President
AOPA Air Safety Institute

10 tips to perform them safely

AOPA Air Safety
Institute Senior
Vice President
RICHARD
MCSPADDEN flies his

Piper Super Cub
to backcountry
locations.

22 | AOPA PILOT February 2021

I AM NOT OPPOSED TO FLY-BYS, even though one of
my previous columns ( " Safety Spotlight: Difficult
Conversations, " November 2020 AOPA Pilot) led some
readers to believe otherwise. In that column-which
wins the top spot for the most controversial I've written at AOPA-I lamented not speaking with a pilot
whom I observed making an unfitting fly-by in the
Idaho backcountry. Most readers agreed with carefully
engaging pilots in a discussion when safety and etiquette are in doubt. A few readers, on the other hand,
encouraged me to mind my own business.
Based on the passion behind that column's
responses, I'd like to make another pass at fly-bys. Flybys can be fun, safe, and legal, in the right environment,
but they are sneakily demanding. They seem easy, which
is why we lose pilots to them every year. Legally, keep
in mind that the requirements of FAR 91.119 (minimum
safe altitudes) are open for interpretation. The FAA has
cited pilots for violating FAR 91.119 after intentional
fly-bys, even within an airport environment. In some
cases, the FAA found explanations that they were just
" go-arounds " or " low approaches " to be disingenuous.
We can reduce the risk of fly-bys with a little planning. Impromptu decisions substantially elevate risk
in aviation, especially when they involve low-altitude
flying. Thus, we should avoid fly-bys on a whim. Take
the time to plan your fly-by, then execute methodically.
Here are 10 tips for safe fly-bys:
1. Study the area on a chart. Include a satellite view.
Determine the ground level, and establish a minimum
altitude " floor " to keep you safe and legal.
2. Factor in sun position and angle; ideally, the sun
will be at your back. Don't perform a fly-by headed
into a low sun.
3. Avoid fly-bys in areas where depth perception is
hampered. Don't perform a fly-by over glassy water or
flat white conditions.
4. Based on all that you observe, plan a route, which
includes direction of flight, minimum altitude, your
start point, ingress corridor, target, egress corridor,
and end point.
5. Fly overhead and assess your route. Ensure you
have an accurate altimeter setting. Confirm your path
is clear of obstacles, terrain, and bird activity. Assess
wind and turbulence. Scan for traffic visually and on
ADS-B displays.

6. When ready to execute, focus on these priorities:
flying airspeed, clear flight path, altitude awareness.
7. Once you start the run-in, keep your eyes completely outside the airplane. Set power at mid-range
and focus on the far end of the fly-by route, not the target. Avoid the temptation to look at the target as you pass.
8. After completing the pass, set your bank angle,
then pull back gently. Once you've confirmed a shallow
climb, glance at your airspeed and altitude, and adjust
power and attitude as necessary.
9. Climb to cope. Be ready to abort the pass if anything
is amiss. Your first reaction is to climb, then handle
any issues.
10. Make one pass. Don't return. Many fly-by mishaps occur in the reposition off the first pass. Airshow
pilots will tell you that some of their highest risk is
away from the crowd in repositions, the maneuvering
that takes place after a stunt to return to show center.
Inexperienced fly-by pilots tend to underestimate the
time and space needed for a reposition, and they turn
back too quickly, without enough horizontal and vertical offset. That sets them up for what is in effect a
base-to-final stall/spin. They overshoot the intended
flight path, correct with too much bank, inside rudder,
and " G " -then stall/spin, with no room to recover.
Avoid intentional low-altitude fly-bys in the backcountry, flown just for a thrill. This does not include
go-arounds or fly-bys to assess fields for safety of flight
purposes. Those should always be encouraged when
appropriate. When flying the backcountry, pilots need
to remember we are not alone. We share a responsibility to protect the wilderness experience with
backpackers, rafters, cyclists, horseback riders, and
more. These adventurers are just as passionate about
enjoying the great outdoors as GA pilots. It takes an
enormous amount of work with local, state, and federal agencies to keep these airfields open. That work
is far more difficult if other users gang up against aviation. Just a little courtesy goes a long way. If you're
itching for the sensation of speed or to show off your
airplane or your skills, there are more appropriate and
more exciting settings for your fly-by.
Go fly. If you're considering a fly-by, make it safe,
legal, and fun with a little planning.
AOPA
EMAIL richard.mcspadden@aopa.org



AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Contents
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